TORONTO — SAP opened its first Canadian Business Forum by announcing a change in leadership and attempting to dispel what it called the myths about how difficult it is for enterprises to install its software products.

Speaking before

an audience of approximately 600 partners and customers in the convention centre of a downtown hotel, SAP America CEO Bill McDermott confirmed Rosalind Lehman’s appointment as acting president of SAP Canada Inc., replacing Michel Brisson. McDermott praised Lehman’s nine years with SAP Canada, most recently as chief financial officer.

“”I wanted to make that public because we have such high hopes for the Canadian market,”” he said. “”In fact, we believe it will be the growth engine of the North American market, if not all of SAP.””

Without mentioning Brisson by name, McDermott said recent restructuring of SAP was necessary to prepare the company to take advantage of the market volatility in the wake of industry consolidation like Oracle’s attempt to acquire PeopleSoft. “”We’ll put leaders in jobs that get that,”” he said.

Lehman marks the fourth executive to be put in charge of SAP Canada in the past three years. Brisson, Quebec native, had been with SAP for six years when he was appointed to the post in July of last year. At the time, he told ITBusiness.ca the company would be putting more focus on the mid-sized enterprise and small business market. McDermott, who noted SAP customer satisfaction rates are highest in Canada, said the same thing.

“”Your hear about, ‘General Motors runs SAP,’ but the reality is it’s small companies that make up the preponderance of our customers,”” he said Approximately 58 per cent of SAP’s client base is made up of companies with less than US$500 million in revenue, he added.

To drive the point home, SAP invited one of its Canadian customers, Georgetown, Ont.-based Mold Masters Inc., to describe some of its recent IT projects. One of the world’s largest suppliers of products to the plastic injection molding industry, Mold Masters turned to SAP in 1999 as part of its Y2K preparations, said president John Fischer. Since then, the company has completed a number of projects using SAP technology, most recently a means of automating the design of its orders, which may end up making the molds for tooth brushes and cell phone cases, among other products.

An SAP-based application allows customers to feed requests into Mold Master’s Web portal, called Merlin, which sends order directly to its plants. In a live demo, Fischer and some Mold Masters employees cut a small plastic encasing onstage. Approximately 25 per cent of the company’s orders are now processed online, Fischer said, and the company aims to have 50 per cent of all orders handled through design automation by the end of this year.

“”You hear about the delays and the glitches. We didn’t have any of that,”” he said. “”It may not be the least expensive, but that’s the value you’re buying.””

McDermott said 61 per cent of all SAP projects are done in less than nine months, and Canadian customers have told him they managed to complete some projects in little more than two weeks. “”Some of those projects (that went awry) were not managed very well, quite frankly,”” he said.

Fischer said Mold Masters is already contemplating more projects with SAP, including wireless access to SAP applications in its warehouse and a customer relationship management project.

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